BY HALEY HODGES
Despite subfreezing temperatures and a nasty wind chill, hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Des Moines on the evening of Feb. 2.
The group marched from the Capitol Building to the Neal Smith Federal Building as an act of opposition to President Donald Trump’s new immigration ban announced the previous Friday.
The march in Des Moines was put together in less than a week with the help of many community members and was led by Nadia Ali.
Ali is a Sudanese immigrant who now lives in West Des Moines. She took on coordinating the march after the executive order was announced.
Ali and other speakers led the rally before the march began.
After their speeches, a Magrib Prayer was held beofre the marching commenced, with hundreds filing down Walnut Street toward the Federal Building then back again.
Protesters were equipped with signs, banners and activist attire and were led in several cheers including “Immigration built this nation,” “No ban, no wall, America is for all,” and “Get up, get down, there’s revolution in this town.”
The protest gathered Iowans from all over the state, including many students from Drake University.
“I just think that everybody has a right to be here. America was founded on immigrants and I just think it’s so important that we show that we care for them,” said Cooper Warner, a junior studying strategic political communication. “I’m a photographer so I’m mostly here taking pictures because I think the big reason people protest is to get bodies together but also to get that coverage. A lot of people will be talking about this for days to come. I know that different news networks are here and the (Des Moines) Register will cover it so I think that’s really what we’re hoping for is to show a coalition of people who really care.”
The protest also drew in Professor Lee Jolliffe, who said she wasn’t able to participate in the physical march but was active in the rally, wearing a hijab in solidarity.
“I went down there because I saw a posting on Twitter and I started circulating it myself,” Jolliffe said. “… I was kind of glad to get a chance to stand up and say ‘No’ to some of the things that Trump is doing.”
Jolliffe is a professor in Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a Des Moines resident.
“Iowa has always been a state that has welcomed immigrants… (and) international students are always attracted to Drake,” Jolliffe said. “(The US) takes far fewer refugees than little tiny countries in Europe. It’s embarrassing to me that we have all of this land and don’t share it… Europe is not any bigger than New England and refugees are simply pouring into their countries and we’re stirring here twiddling our thumbs.”
The march also drew support from other groups and organizations. A collection of allies at the march and rally were designated to be the ones to talk with law enforcement or crowds if necessary. Other organizations like the American Civil Liberties’ Union of Iowa were involved in helping run the event. The Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) also sent representatives.
“Refugee children are one of our top priorities for our international organization, as well as local. So when we heard about the ban on Friday, that was something we were definitely concerned about and something we were definitely opposed to. We want to be a welcoming country for women and children,” said E.J. Walllace, the manager of mobilization for SCAN. “Within the first 48 hours we generated 44,000 petitions to Congress asking them to denounce the ban. Right now, we’re at about 66,000 petitions. We’re hoping to continue to generate pressure on our Congressional delegations to tell them this is not who we are as America. Children and women should be safe wherever they are and we need to continue to be a welcoming community.”
Ali and other organizers were thankful to the outpour of support from all groups, especially in spite of the cold weather that might have driven those less passionate away.
“I am extremely humble dto live in a supportive, loving community that comes together in bad and good times. I am overwhelmed today, if you can tell, with the kind of support that my community has gotten…” Ali said in her speech. “Despite whatever the executive order is passed, I will always feel strong. I will always feel belonged in my community.”